Mississippi-born producer/MC Big K.R.I.T. is one of a handful of artists currently bearing the torch of classic Southern hip-hop; you can chalk his tendency toward soulful bass-heavy production up to the likes of OutKast, UGK, and 8-Ball & MJG, and coupled with upfront and deeply personal lyrics, he’s built a cult following that has held steady since the release of his breakout project K.R.I.T. Wuz Here back in 2010. Up until his most recent studio album, the sci-fi tinged Cadillactica from November of last year, he was famous for self-producing all of his projects, mixtapes (Wuz Here, Return of 4Eva, 4Eva n a Day, King Remembered In Time) and albums (Live From The Underground) alike, a true hip-hop auteur in the vein of Kanye West or even Dr. Dre. Aside from Future, Migos, Killer Mike, and still active Three 6 Mafia members Juicy J and Gangsta Boo, there are few contemporary rappers who have done as much to put the South on the map, and the nearly fanatical critical and commercial success of Cadillactica is a testament to the viability of K.R.I.T.’s country fried sound.
K.R.I.T. stopped over in New York this past week as a guest on Thursday’s episode of The Nightly Show (July 30) and for a free Celebrate Brooklyn set this past Friday (July 31), so naturally I hopped at the chance to talk to him after he’d just touched down. Between the #BlackLivesMatter movement still raging against police brutality across the country, people not taking Mississippi hip-hop seriously, or Southern hip-hop at large, and the growing debate about ghostwriting in the genre in the wake of Meek Mill and Drake’s much-publicized beef, K.R.I.T. had a lot on his mind. Oh, and soul food, too. Check it all out below.
“Soul Food” was a gripping track from Cadillactica, so what’s your favorite soul food?
Oh man, Mac and cheese (laughs). Mac and cheese has to be my number one, maybe with some biscuits on the side. Then I’d have to say catfish, too. And maybe some corn bread.
What’s your stance on ghostwriting in the midst of the continuing battle between Meek Mill and Drake?
I’m a producer first, but it depends on the genre we’re talking about. Ghostwriting has been going on for years; I mean, Smokey Robinson wrote songs for The Temptations. When it comes to hip-hop, people expect a certain level of authenticity from rappers, and I get how it can be disappointing to learn that your favorite rapper didn’t necessarily write that song you love. I write all my shit (laughs), but every once in a while, people need help with melodies or people need help with hooks; it happens. Some people are more concerned with the finished product than where the words come from, so it’s subjective.
You recently called out Hot 97’s Ebro on Twitter for clowning on Mississippi’s place in hip-hop, whether intentionally or not. Could you elaborate on that a bit?
Well, he was implying that certain areas of the South weren’t worth reaching out too, Mississippi in particular, and that got me riled up. The industry has been overlooking areas like Mississippi for years, writing us off as nothing more than country bumpkins, and I was sick and tired of it; so I decided to reach out and set that record straight. There are people down here like myself who are working hard at making their own music, beats, lyrics, and all, and they deserve to be acknowledged. That’s why I put out an album like Cadillactica; to show that the South is still moving. I also feel like there’s more important things happening right now that need our attention, like Sandra Bland and others suffering at the hands of police brutality, instead of further sectioning ourselves off.
Speaking of Cadillactica, the first time I listened to it, the idea of this world struck me as an Afro-Futurist concept. Has Afro-Futurism from the like of Sun Ra or P-Funk inspired your work at any turn?
I’d say so, yea. I just started from the base concept of the planet Cadillactica and moved out from there. It’s very much inspired by deep space and the sound and feeling of being in deep space. The production all over the album was definitely inspired by space and funk, like you said, and working with a number of producers helped bring the project together in a big way. Like Raphael Saadiq is on the album, Terrace Martin is on the album, Jim Jonsin and DJ Dahi are on the album.
You’re well-known for self-producing all your projects up until King Remembered In Time, so what was it like giving up some of that control on Cadillactica?
It wasn’t that big of a deal. In fact, their input inspired the direction of the album as much as mine did. It was nice having different voices and different opinions around, especially since we were all ready to work and clicked real well. Cadillactica had a full sound because of that.
During your CRWN interview last year, you mentioned that you’re telling a story with all of your projects, but backwards. In this case, what’s next in the story?
I have no fuckin’ idea, man (laughs). I just play it all as it comes.
Let’s talk about collabs. Do you plan on working with Curren$y ever again?
Most definitely, that’s the homie. It’s been a while since Spitta and I have put anything out, but the two of us and Smoke DZA will have some tracks coming in the near future. Be on the look out for K.R.I.T., Curren$y, & Smoke DZA coming soon.
Last question for you: since the Cadillac has been the motif that almost all of your projects revolve around, I’ve gotta know – what’s your favorite Cadillac?
Oh man, the ’75 Deville. That’s the car that we use to cover my DJ booth. Unfortunately, we won’t have it at the show, but that’s usually the way the DJ booth looks. Quality car (laughs).